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4 Ancient Grains You Should Be Eating

4 ancient grains you should be eating

Ancient grains content and insights provided by Nutrition Innovation Manager Aaron Martin, CISSN.

The term “ancient” is used to describe grains that have not been altered through selective breeding over the recent millennium.  Ancient grains are NOT corn and modern varieties of wheat, which have been the product of many hundreds and sometimes thousands of years of selective breeding, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Why look for ancient grains? These grains offer superior nutritional characteristics compared to conventional grain sources; including more protein, omega 3s, b vitamins, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, iron & fiber & overall ease of digestion.  The combination of all of these factors provide a powerful nutritional punch!   Not to mention, many are known for their robust texture and flavor.   Four of the most popular are Amaranth, Quinoa, Buckwheat and Millet.


Aztecs have used Amaranth as staple food in ancient times for distinctive benefits:

  • Rich source of protein
  • Phytonutrients: fight off inflammation, high blood pressure, and may prevent certain cancers
  • Gluten-free
  • Fiber: slow absorption of sugars in the blood stream for steady energy
  • Phytosterols: help lower cholesterol
  • Vitamins and minerals: rich source of calcium, magnesium and copper. Also a good source of many essential vitamins- A,C,K, and B-vitamins.


Originating from Peru, Quinoa has a number of highlights:

  • Contains all nine essential amino acids.
  • Flavonoids: Quentin and Kaempferol – these two potent flavonoids have numerous health benefits
  • High fiber – higher fiber than most other grains
  • Gluten-free
  • Improve Metabolic Health: shown to lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels
  • High in Vitamins and Minerals: Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron and Copper to name a few.


Consumed in plentiful amounts in Asian countries, Buckwheat is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. due to the following diet essentials:

  • Heart Health: lowers cholesterol & blood pressure
  • Disease fighting antioxidants
  • Highly digestible protein
  • Digestive Health: high fiber
  • Metabolic syndrome: prevent diabetes
  • Gluten-Free
  • High in Vitamin & Minerals: including magnesium, zinc, & B-vitamins


This sweet, nutty grain has been a staple to the Hunzas people – native to the Himalayan foothills – for its amazing health benefits:

  • Sustained Energy: slow digesting “smart” carb promotes clean energy
  • Probiotic Fiber
  • High in magnesium & Niacin
  • Decreases Triglycerides & C-reactive proteins (anti-inflammatory)
  • High antioxidant activity
  • Gluten-free
  • High Protein (15%)

How you can incorporate ancient grains into your diet:

  • Wheat Flour Alternative: Try baking with quinoa in a pizza crust or go with amaranth for an assortment of baked goods.
  • Powdered Drink Additive: Innovative delivery systems allow these grains to be added to a beverage as a clean energy source. Look for ready to mix protein powders incorporating these in instant beverages.
  • Smoothie Incorporation: At home-try adding a couple tablespoons into a textured morning smoothie – try adding in a couple tablespoons of these ancient grains into a morning smoothie.
  • Ancient Grain Granola: Mix into yogurt for a nutritional power crunch!
  • Meal Side or Base: Try cooking Quinoa or Amaranth instead of brown rice or white rice.


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